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Opinion: Eleven other 'No Way' candidates who became president

In 1912, the general refrain was “no way” would a governor of only 18 months, and former head of Princeton University, overcome well known politicos and end up in the White House. This was Woodrow Wilson.

In 1932, the general refrain was “no way” would a New York governor who suffered from polio and used a wheelchair, and who was not regarded as particularly outstanding by many journalists, a man named Franklin D. Roosevelt, end up in the White House.

OPINION

In 1948, the general refrain was “no way” would a president by succession, who suffered from very low public opinion polls, and who no one except himself truly believed he would win a full term in the presidency, a man named Harry Truman, end up in the White House.

In 1952, the general refrain was “no way” would a former World War II general, who had no political ambitions, and had to be convinced to run for the presidency, a man named Dwight D. Eisenhower, end up in the White House.

In 1960, the general refrain was “no way” in a nation that had never elected a non-protestant, would a Roman Catholic senator, named John F. Kennedy, end up in the White House.

In 1968, the general refrain was “no way” would a former vice president, who had lost the presidential election of 1960 to John F. Kennedy, and then lost the governorship of California two years later, a man named Richard Nixon, end up in the White House.

In 1976, the general refrain was “no way” would an obscure one-term governor from the southern state of Georgia, who had a brilliant smile and used a nickname as his first name publicly, a man named Jimmy Carter, end up in the White House.

In 1980, the general refrain was “no way” would an aging actor who was nearing the age of 70, and had lost an earlier attempt to defeat President Gerald Ford for the presidential nomination, a man named Ronald Reagan, end up in the White House.

In 1992, the general refrain was “no way” would a small-state governor from Arkansas, who had bored the Democratic National Convention in 1988 with his speech supporting Gov. Michael Dukakis for the presidency, and who had a sex scandal become a public issue during the 1992 campaign, a man named Bill Clinton, end up in the White House.

In 2000, the general refrain was “no way” would the son of a former president, who had never made much of an impression as governor in a state, Texas, where the governor has little authority, and whose brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, had been earlier groomed as a potential presidential candidate, a man named George W. Bush, end up in the White House.

In 2008, the general refrain was “no way” would a biracial first term senator from Illinois, with a middle name “Hussein” and a very African name, and with the wife of a former president seeking the Presidency as the clear-cut front runner, a man named Barack Obama, end up in the White House.

These eleven “no way” cases should convince anyone that there is “no way” to say Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders can be dismissed as possible presidents, based on public opinion polls and the large crowds that they have drawn to their public appearances.

We may be on our way to our 12th “no way” presidency of the past century. Predicting presidential elections is a fun game, but also excludes the human factor, that life is uncertain and the future is uncertain. Only after it is all over can we analyze and understand the process by which we will have elected our 45th president of the United States.

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).

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